Stressed, exhausted, and having a hard time bouncing back from long days? It may be time to look at your adrenals. You may feel your heart palpitate or notice you sweat more during times of intermittent stress, but chronic stress typically goes physically unnoticed. Stress isn’t like an open wound you get stitched at the doctor, it’s a silent attacker that works internally and over a long period of time.
While too much stress can be dangerous, stress is also a sign of a healthy body. Cortisol, the stress hormone, naturally rises and falls throughout the day. About 20-25mg of cortisol are produced by the adrenal glands in a 24-hour period. Your adrenal glands must walk a tight rope to keep the perfect balance for cells, tissues, and organs and cortisol must be able to respond to stresses as needed. A body check, called a “feedback loop”, for stress hormones happens every 3-6 seconds. In other words, your body is paying close attention to your mental state hundreds of times per day!
Naturopathic Doctor, James Wilson, states, “When the amount of stress continually exceeds the capacity of the adrenals to secrete sufficient hormones to make the physiological, and biochemical compensations necessary for that level of stress, adrenal fatigue occurs. In adrenal fatigue, the adrenals function but not optimally.”1 While there isn’t one symptom that defines adrenal fatigue, there is a unique fatigue pattern seen in many with adrenal fatigue. This typically includes early morning fatigue with a mid-morning low, afternoon low, and increased energy after 6:00pm, following with a “second wind” around 11:00pm.1 Other symptoms of adrenal fatigue include the need for caffeine or stimulants, decreased stamina and energy, salty food cravings, hypoglycemia, low libido, inability to feel refreshed after sleep, and mild depression.
If you think you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue, be sure to discuss care options with your health care provider. The good news is that adrenal fatigue treatment is a mixture of simple lifestyle changes. Here are four ways you can get started today:
- Eliminate stressors. Healing from adrenal fatigue is a long process, taking up to two years for chronic cases. Re-evaluate your schedule, social plans, and free time activity. Focus on what makes you feel relaxed and begin to prioritize activities for your healing. Dr. Wilson suggests creating aGood for Me, Bad For Mechart to gain a better perspective.
- Sleep, sleep, sleep! Don’t resist sleep, the body is healing while you are dreaming. View sleep as an important medical appointment that you simply can’t miss. Not a bad treatment, right? Allow yourself to sleep when you feel tired and keep a consistent sleep schedule even when you don’t feel tired.
- Don’t skip the physical activity. You don’t have to run a marathon to heal your adrenals, but you can commit to walking the dog every morning or evening. Keep your body in good shape; this not only improves your stress response but also allows your body to heal more efficiently.
- Hone in on your diet. During your time of healing focus on healthy fats found in fish, nuts, and seeds. Make protein a priority in your diet by including a serving at every meal. Good sources of protein include chicken, turkey, beef, beans, lentils, and yogurt.
- Wilson J. Clinical perspectives on stress, cortisol and adrenal fatigue. Advances in Integrative Medicine. 2014;1(2):93-96